Lance Shaner, the president and owner of State College-based Shaner Corp., and his wife have sued The Second Mile to recover a $250,000 donation they made to help build a proposed learning center.
The charity put its 45,000- square-foot Center For Excellence project, planned for a site at Bernel and Fox Hollow roads near University Park Airport, on hold after the state froze a $3 million matching grant in November, in response to child sexual abuse allegations made against The Second Mile founder Jerry Sandusky.
According to the lawsuit, filed this week, the Shaners say they understand The Second Mile will not go forward with the project, and because their gift was given expressly for that cause, they are demanding the return of the money.
“We thought the Shaners and The Second Mile would both benefit by having the court determine whether The Second Mile could release designated gifts for the Center for Excellence project now that it is not going to go forward,” said Ron Carnevali Jr., the Shaners’ attorney.
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Lance Shaner, who previously served on the state board of The Second Mile, made the $250,000 donation on June 8, 2005, and pledged to pay in five annual payments of $50,000 according to the lawsuit.
In a Nov. 14 letter to David Woodle, who took over as director of The Second Mile in November, Shaner said, “It is clear to me that this project is unlikely to ever proceed.”
“Moreover, the mission of The Second Mile has been forever altered by the recent events,” the letter continued. “Please forward the $250,000 to my attention as soon as possible, but in no event not later than December 1, 2011.”
Bob Poole, the chairman of The Second Mile board, was sent a copy of the letter.
The lawsuit was filed on Jan. 24, and lists The Second Mile, the commonwealth, and the Attorney General’s Office as defendants. In a written response to Shaner dated Nov. 28, also included in the lawsuit, Woodle said the charity had been directed not to make any asset transfers outside of paying its regular bills.
“The board of directors intends to honor your request just as soon as it can obtain the necessary approvals from the Pennsylvania attorney general and the appropriate court,” Woodle wrote.
The Second Mile may be blocked from giving the money back by another lawsuit filed in Philadelphia, which sought to preserve the charity’s assets for compensatory payments to the alleged victims. That suit was settled privately and its terms are not known.
“It may contain terms that make (The Second Mile) hesitant in respect to what they can and can't do with those designated funds,” Carnevali said. He said other donors to the learning center project will be watching the Shaners’ suit to see how they can pursue reimbursement. In order to receive the state grant, The Second Mile collected $3 million in matching funds.
Eric Herman, of the public relations firm Burson-Marsteller, has been acting as spokesman for The Second Mile.
“We will review the lawsuit and respond appropriately when we have done so, continuing to adhere to our legal responsibilities in the process,” Herman wrote in an email. “Our primary focus remains helping the children of our communities; we’re evaluating the future of our programs so those kids can continue to benefit.”
Cliff White can be reached at 235-3928.